I love old cookbooks. I find some of the names for recipes, how they measured ingredients, and what they ate 50, 100, 150 years or more ago facinating. One type of dish that used to be very popular was called a congealed salad. You would know them better today as Jello salads. I personally happen to like them. I like the flavors and versatility Jello allows the cook. In fact, you can be pretty creative with Jello. I have to be honest with you, if I had been introduced to them under the name congealed, I can’t say I would even try them. In this case it would have nothing to do with the ingredients and everything to do with eating something that is called congealed. It conjures up something that is incredibly unappealing. Congealed as a word is a lot like moist both are rather unappealing words in the English language. No one really likes being moist…it is uncomfortable…a little like wearing a damp bathing suit. So while I like congealed salads, I think I will stick to calling them Jello.
The thing is when something is congealed it means that a substances has gone from a fluid state to a rigid or solid state. It is why cooks will put homemade broth into the refrigerator. The fat in the broth congeals on the surface when cold and can be scraped off which removes most of not all the fat preventing it from congealing in arteries. But something doesn’t have to be a food to congeal.
People can also become congealed. The word doesn’t just refer to liquids becoming solid but according to Dictionary.com it also refers to ideas, sentiments, or principles becoming fixed or rigidly adhered to. Now more than ever we don’t want to become congealed but instead need to be careful to continue to stay fluid in our acceptance of things that are new or new ways to do old things. Why? Well we are living in unprecedented times. We haven’t been through a pandemic that impacted the world since the Spanish Flu of 1918. That is just over one hundred years. So, as we process the information we get each day and make decisions based on that information, know that we and our leaders will make good decisions and we will make bad decisions.. But I hope as we work through every choice we make we will not become congealed. Because here’s the thing: we will not emerge from this pandemic into the same world we lived in before the world shut down. Some things might be the same, but more things will have to be different. If we have spirits that are congealed, it will only be harder on us. Congealed spirits have a tendency to become complaining, curmudgeonly, and disagreeable. Keeping our spirits fluid is a much better way to live, especially through the massive changes we may, (probably will) face in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Why do I think all this? Well…I have been working through the recommendations from conference on what we need to do as a church once we get to the place where we can have in house worship once again. They are pretty extensive and will mean some significant changes for worship in order to keep people safe and continue to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by anyone who may be infected but not showing any symptoms. None of these are suggestions. And worship is only one aspect of our lives. So not allowing our spirits to congeal helps as we accept the changes we will face in worship. Some of those changes may even make worship more meaningful. Some will mean we have to let go of meaningful aspects hopefully only for a season and not permanently.
Through it all keeping our spirits fluid like water, recognizing that life is different at least for now helps us to embrace the changes that need to happen for now. And while “congealed” salads taste good, (I still prefer the name Jello), a congealed spirit is not at all attractive.
For anyone who is struggling with the changes that are happening, please don’t hesitate to get some counseling or at least talk with a trusted friend or pastor. While our circumstances may be different we are all going through the effects this virus is having on our whole world. Talking about it helps process the many feelings we are having. Talking about it offers us a release valve. And if you don’t have anyone you feel you can talk to, may I highly recommend God who is always available, always there, and who will, when you allow yourself to be still, answer.